with Ralph

Songbyrd Presents
Downstairs, All Ages

DOORS: 7:00 PM // SHOW: 8:00 PM

$12 / $15



Songbyrd Presents

Saturday February 8, 2020


joan is more than a name—it's a feeling. Together, Arkansas duo Alan Thomas and Steven Rutherford craft indelible synth-pop with a strong emotional quotient that sounds timeless. Thomas and Rutherford are crafting new memories for future generations, and if last year’s portra EP and the new single "ease your mind" are any indication, they’re just getting started.

Both members of joan grew up in the same state, but it took a bit for them to join forces. Thomas grew up playing sports but was drawn to music early on by his father, who gigged as a bassist in various bands throughout the 1980s and '90s. He took to the drums at age 11, and studied music in college while becoming proficient in production software in his spare time—but a chance encounter with a professor unlocked his true calling. "I had a music teacher who taught ear training," he remembers. "I went in for my first ear training test and I started singing scales, and she stopped me and said, 'Alan, you have a really nice voice.' I said, 'I do?' I knew my mom thought so, but from then on I thought, 'Maybe I could sing.'"

Rutherford spent his early adolescence picking up piano, guitar, and the drums after being raised on a diet of classic rock pumping from his parents' soundsystem. In fifth grade, a viewing of the feel-good comedy classic School of Rock inspired his future career path: "It was the first time I'd seen people performing onstage, and I was like, 'I don't care how hard it is—I'm doing that.'" High school and college saw Rutherford doing time in a series of bands that were "Kind of serious—we were playing shows, keeping busy."

After college, Thomas and Rutherford separately found themselves in bands that seemingly had limited futures—a stasis that, ironically, led to them joining forces. "The music scene in Little Rock can be kind of insulated, so you end up playing a lot of shows with the same people," Thomas explains. "We met through that and became best friends." The first song the duo wrote together, the punchy anthem "take me on," came to them over a single night of songwriting: "From that day we were like, 'Maybe this is what we need to be doing.'" "The stars aligned," Rutherford adds. "We were texting each other after writing that song, 'Should we be a band?'"

The pair settled on joan from a list of band names that Rutherford had left over from a previous project, explaining, "We felt it immediately fit super well with the songs we were writing." Drawing from formative influences ranging from Prince and Don Henley to James Taylor and classic pop, joan followed "take me on" with the swelling ballad "i loved you first," which almost immediately became a SoundCloud sensation, attracting record labels and management alike. "take me on” got an official release through the distribution platform 20xx, as joan continued to work on what was initially planned as a series of singles.